A sense of pride and remembrance filled the air in North Augusta as vendors, small businesses and attendees came to celebrate and learn more about their history.
The second annual Juneteenth Mega Festival was held at Bogus Hill Landing in North Augusta by local nonprofit Vision 2020 and Beyond. Celebrating resiliency, the event aims to highlight the cultural relevance of the recently minted national holiday.
”To use a small word, it’s a big deal,” Vision 2020 and Beyond Founder Rodney Tillman said. “To be bringing awareness to people and the community, it’s not only about black history, but about things that have been missing totally in history. We are glad to bring some eyes to our focus.”
The festival hosted small business vendors, local performers, and a Southern soul food festival. Later in the evening, a Father’s Day concert featuring national recording artists Shaun Milli, West Love and Lyfe Jennings took the stage. A fireworks grand finale was added to the festivities, lighting up the sky around 10 p.m.
“One thing that we know about this area is that there has been a shift in the compilation and things that have happened,” Vision 2020 and Beyond co-founder Tanya Tillman said. “To be able to bring festivals as large as this one to Edgefield County, to the CSRA is just an amazing opportunity.”
Juneteenth celebrates the announcement of the emancipation of slavery in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 after the conclusion of the Civil War. Known colloquially as ‘Black Independence Day’, speakers highlight the strides and future steps for equality.
“That was really their day of freedom, in a sense that was our day of freedom. That is why we celebrate Juneteenth because that is the day our people, our ancestors were truly set free,” speaker Eric Jeffcoat said. “And now they could truly begin to enjoy the American dream. It would take many years for that to come to life. Let's enjoy this Juneteenth, but be sure every year as we celebrate, we make more and more progress to truly living out the American dream.”
“We can’t truly celebrate Juneteenth until we can enter a store without being followed because of the color of our skin. We can’t fully live out Juneteenth until we can drive our own cars without being pulled over by law enforcement for being black….” Jeffcoat continued. “So every year, as we come to this date, let's reflect on how far we have come and how far we have to go and one day when race no longer matters, we can say Juneteenth has been fulfilled.”
The Tillmans hope that Juneteenth and its relevance to the public continues to encourage people to learn more about its cultural and historical significance.
“The resiliency of all of the waves and changes that Black Americans have been through and we continue to bounce back and then we find creative ways to continue to progress as a people and I think that is the biggest thing,” Tanya Tillman said. “Now that it is of course nationally recognized, it brings a whole new light.”
To learn more about Vision 2020 and Beyond, visit their website.